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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   November 30, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160


Health Assessment Released
on Puchack Well Field in Camden County


TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have released for public comment a health assessment on the Puchack Well Field (PDF 132K) in Pennsauken, Camden County. The public may submit written comments on the assessment through January 7, 2002.

The draft assessment concludes that the well field represented a public health hazard in the past due to a completed human exposure pathway to certain contaminants in drinking water drawn from the site, although the public health significance of this exposure is unknown. The site is not considered a present health hazard as all the contaminated wells are out of service.

The Puchack Well Field was one of three well fields that supplied drinking water to the City of Camden. The 10-acre site contained seven wells and all have been removed from service: one well was destroyed during the building of the Betsy Ross Bridge, and the remaining six were closed down between 1975 and 1998.

In the early 1970s, several contaminants - including chromium and mercury - and volatile organic compounds - including trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene - were found in one of the Puchack wells. Subsequently, the contamination spread to the other wells in the Puchack Well Field.

The site was placed on the National Priorities List (commonly known as the Superfund Site List) in 1998, and various state and federal agencies - including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the United States Geological Survey, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have been working to determine the scope of contamination, identify the contamination sources, and design possible remediation alternatives.

While the residents of the City of Camden were exposed to contaminated water from the Puchack Well Field in the past, it is difficult to determine the amount of exposure to any individual. The water from the site was mixed with water from uncontaminated wells as it traveled from the well field to each home. As a result, some people would have had higher exposure than others based on where along the distribution system they lived, their water consumption habits and what wells were in use at the time. Due to these factors, it is unknown what health risks people face from these past exposures.

The DHSS and ATSDR report that although it is unlikely that health effects would occur from the levels of contamination that have been found at the Puchack Well Field, adverse health outcomes cannot be ruled out without additional investigations of the community's health. The agencies will develop a plan to evaluate health outcome data in the areas of the city that received water from the contaminated wells. They will also meet with local health officials and community leaders to develop plans to learn more about community needs as they pertain to this site.

The DHSS and the ATSDR are also recommending the continued sampling and testing of groundwater wells that were built to monitor movement of the contamination plume and its possible spread to other community supply wells in the area.

The public is invited to submit written comments on the draft health assessment through January 7, 2002, to: Health Assessment Project Manager, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Consumer and Environmental Health Services, P.O. Box 369, Trenton NJ 08625-0369.

Copies of the document and an accompanying citizens' guide (English - PDF 20K, Spanish - PDF 16K) are available for public review at the Camden County Department of Health, Jefferson House, Lakeland Road, in Blackwood; and at several local libraries, including the Camden County Library, 418 Federal Street; the Cooper Library, 6th & Erie Streets; the Fairview Library, 1503 Collings Road; and the Isabel Miller Library, 8th & Van Hook Streets.

Copies may also be obtained by calling the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services at 609-588-3120, or by visiting the department's web site at www.state.nj.us/health. A Spanish version of the citizens' guide will be posted on the website next week.


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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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